Ashwin, Ojha: India's new joint strike force

Shane Warne may be the finest leg-spinner ever and off-spinner Muttiah Muralitharan may be the greatest wicket-taker in the history of cricket, but when it comes to legacy of spin bowling, few countries rival India's.

From Subhash Gupte to the famed spin quartet to Anil Kumble and Harbhajan Singh, India have produced spinners of great guile and style. The spin stock, though, has worn an anaemic look in the aftermath of Kumble’s retirement, a situation worsened by the out-of-favour Harbhajan. It’s still early days but off-spinner R Ashwin and left-armer Pragyan
Ojha are showing plenty of promise, especially when they have played together.

Just how fast bowlers hunt in pair, the spinners too thrive in the company of each other. It was true of Kumble and Harbhajan and it’s proving to be so in the case of Ashwin and Ojha who together have put India on top against New Zealand in the first Test here.

“India have a legacy of great spinners and as young spinners we are definitely looking forward to follow in their footsteps. We have been picking up wickets and the way he (Ashwin) is bowling, I am confident that I can do well in this series,” Ojha remarked.

Between them, the duo has 103 scalps from the 22 Tests they have played so far and more than half of those wickets have come whenever they have operated together. “Ashwin and I bowl really well and I think we should do well in the upcoming games,” said Ojha when asked if he enjoyed bowling with Ashwin.

A further analysis of their bowling stats throws up more interesting facts. Since they came together during the West Indies series last year, the two have shared 52 wickets in four matches (including the ongoing Test here). While India have won the two of the first three ties, they are well on course to clinch the fourth one.

Though Ojha, for obvious reasons, wasn’t forthcoming in his views, it’s crystal clear from the numbers that he has tasted more success with Ashwin than while bowling with Harbhajan. In four Tests with the Tamil Nadu player, Ojha has claimed 24 wickets at an average of 21.12 whereas he has picked up just 35 wickets in 10 encounters at an inflated average of 42.65 along with Harbhajan.

His overall average is 33.39. There’s a telling difference when it comes to strike rate as well. It’s at a healthy 51.8 balls per scalp with Ashwin and an unflattering 88.4 with the Punjab bowler, way above his overall 72.4.

“Whether it’s Bhaju pa or Ashwin or me, main thing is to get wickets and win games for India. When I bowl with Bhaju pa, I talk a lot to him and share his experience. Bhaju pa shares his experience of playing such amount of cricket. That kind of thing we do miss,” remarked Ojha.

Ashwin too is a different bowler with Ojha in tandem. He has bagged 28 wickets at 19.28 with the Hyderabad player, while his overall tally stands at 37 wickets from seven matches at nearly 30 runs per a batsman dismissed. His effort of 40.1 deliveries for each wicket with Ojha is also way better than his overall strike rate of 57.6.

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